China plugging holes in 'Great Firewall'

Mar 22, 2011 by Marianne Barriaux
A man surfs the Internet at a cafe in Beijing in 2009. China appears to be moving aggressively to plug holes in its "Great Firewall" censorship system, causing frustration for businesses and web users, foreign Internet companies and analysts said.

China appears to be moving aggressively to plug holes in its "Great Firewall" censorship system, causing frustration for businesses and web users, foreign Internet companies and analysts said.

Google's email service Gmail has been heavily disrupted, as have several popular online services providing encryption software that many businesses and individuals depend on for web security and to get around the firewall.

The problems have followed a call for subtle, weekly "strolling" protests in inspired by political uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, and indicate the government is intent on nipping dissent in the bud, analysts said.

"They're testing new capabilities to see if there are technical means of dealing with the possibility of organised opposition," Russell Leigh Moses, a Beijing-based political analyst, told AFP.

China operates an ever-expanding system of Internet control and censorship dubbed the " of China", aimed at snuffing out information or comment that the government considers a threat to its authority.

Gmail users have complained of access difficulties in recent weeks that have forced some to switch to other services such as Hotmail and Yahoo!, and points the finger at the .

"There is no technical issue on our side -- we have checked extensively. This is a government blockage carefully designed to look like the problem is with Gmail," Google said in a statement Monday to AFP.

Providers of virtual private networks (VPNs) -- encrypted tunnels through the Internet that make communications secure and enable users to bypass censors -- also are blaming the government in occasionally colourful terms.

"Yes... The Klingon Empire scored a couple (of) solid hits on the USS Enterprise," Bill Bullock, chief executive of WiTopia, a popular VPN provider, told China-based customers in a recent email, using imagery from the US television show "Star Trek".

At least three other established VPN providers have reported disruptions in China recently.

A spokesman for provider 12VPN told AFP they were avoiding new sign-ups from China "during this unstable period."

"As far as we can tell this is part of the Chinese reaction to the calls for 'walks' as a form of protest," he said.

The mysterious online appeal for demonstrations in dozens of cities around China each Sunday has prompted tight security at designated protest sites. No obvious protests have been reported yet.

China faces rising public dissatisfaction over inflation, official corruption, and growing income disparities -- similar to the mix of problems contributing to the Arab unrest.

The Beijing government has watched the Middle East turmoil with unease, largely blocking mention of it on the Chinese Internet.

The online disruptions impact users seeking access to long-blocked sites such as Facebook or Twitter, and hitting businesses.

"It's one more strike that makes it difficult to get things done in China," said Ben Cavender, associate principal at Shanghai-based China Market Research Group.

He said companies already face a tough business environment in China including foreign complaints of a regulatory environment that discriminates against them.

"And if they have trouble accessing information, it's one more major issue to deal with."

China's government has repeatedly said it has the right to police its Internet. A ministry overseeing Internet issues did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the latest disruptions.

Some observers said foreign enterprises are particularly affected, as they rely on access to overseas sites for business.

But Chinese netizens also have expressed dismay, particularly over Gmail, which is popular with white-collar, educated users.

"This type of intermittent interference on the Internet -- where users have no patience -- will seriously impact the level of use (for ). It's a really despicable method," one netizen said on popular web portal Sina.com.

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User comments : 16

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TabulaMentis
1 / 5 (4) Mar 22, 2011
If these tactics were used in China solely for security and privacy concerns without violating individual liberties, then the same should be done in the United States of America.
J-n
not rated yet Mar 22, 2011
... But the tactics were used not for security or with concern for privacy, with the sole purpose of violating individual liberties.

Granted those liberties have not been given to the people of china by their government, so this was really just a tightening of the controls that the Chinese government exerts over it's citizens.
TabulaMentis
1 / 5 (3) Mar 22, 2011
Yes, I agree. But the 'Great Firewall' does provide a template to help prevent cybercrime, cyberterrorism and so forth we as a nation will have to deal with whether or not we want to. Thinking ahead, it is an absolute must! The Wild Wild West mentality will have to become a thing of the past if we are to survive.
Drumsk8
2 / 5 (2) Mar 22, 2011
Bull S..T how many cyber crimes originate from china? why is google only affected and not msn or yahoo? hmmm maybe because google didn't play ball with the Chinese government after being attacked by Chinese hackers! Open your eyes and read the news otherwise please crawl back under your rock and don't grace your stupid comments on this site again. If we ever allowed a firewall like that forget net neutrality we'll lose our rights to information and freedom of speech!
vdoomer
2.5 / 5 (2) Mar 22, 2011
Nice red herring, TabulaMentis. I'm sure we're jeopardizing our lives by having net neutrality and a lack of government regulation. Cyberterrorism? Really? Has terrorism become the euphemistic way of saying, "unless you give up your rights, evil-doers will kill us all." We can also prevent 100% of possible crimes by having police/soldiers moniter every family. Sounds like a utopia.
TabulaMentis
1 / 5 (2) Mar 23, 2011
There is a lot of illegal activity going on over the Internet. I can imagine that China is also concerned about that as well. Go ahead and prove to eveybody you two people are ignorant. I guess you like to make your own speed limits and all types of laws for own selfish purposes, right?
TabulaMentis
not rated yet Mar 23, 2011
Some people may want to read the following Physorg.com article published March 23, 2011 titled "'What if?' scenario: Cyberwar between US and China in 2020" that can be found at the following link:

http://(omit).physorg.com/news/2011-03-scenario-cyberwar-china.html
J-n
not rated yet Mar 23, 2011
The best way to protect ANY computer from getting hacked by someone on the internet is to not have the computer attached to the internet.

I believe that TabulaMentis is confused about what the "Great Firewall" actually is.

This isnt the sort of blocking that stops hackers from breaking into systems. This firewall is spesifically designed and used to block individuals from accessing websites that talk about Tiennemen Square, and Falun Gong or really any issue that the government does not want it's people to know or talk about.

The Firewall is set-up no to protect it's people from harmful incomming messages/etc but to prohibit it's people from accessing "sensitive" information.

If our government was SERIOUSLY concerned about a cyberwar the computers and computer networks that control/contain sensitive information would no be accessible from or to the internet at all. Which would completely block any reasonable chance of a hacker getting access to the systems.
TabulaMentis
not rated yet Mar 23, 2011
I believe that TabulaMentis is confused about what the "Great Firewall" actually is.

I was talking mostly about security (surveillance). The US should not stop communications, unless it is illegal or is a threat to America. The Wikipedia definition of the Great Firewall is as follows: The Golden Shield Project (Chinese: ; pinyin: jndn gngchéng), colloquially referred to as the Great Firewall of China[1] () is a censorship and surveillance project operated by the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) division of the government of the People's Republic of China.
TabulaMentis
not rated yet Mar 23, 2011
If our government was SERIOUSLY concerned about a cyberwar the computers and computer networks that control/contain sensitive information would no be accessible from or to the internet at all. Which would completely block any reasonable chance of a hacker getting access to the systems.
There are other ways to gain access to a computer even if it is not connected to the Internet. Scary, uh!
bredmond
5 / 5 (1) Mar 23, 2011
just as a side comment, the Great Firewall is not just about China National Security. It is also likely an economic protectionist strategy for local net industry. Chinese sites equivalent to facebook, twitter, and youtube have begun to flourish since blocking those western sites. other google searches have been faulty for me here in china. for example, image searches on google, and searches for ancient chinese culture informaiton is also faulty. after local industry is more developed, it will be interesting to see how the firewall develops.
J-n
not rated yet Mar 24, 2011
There are other ways to gain access to a computer even if it is not connected to the Internet. Scary, uh!


If you cannot connect to the computer you cannot access a computer. No network access plus a locked door equals no access.

Additionally I am of the opinion that survailance by the government of my activities whether on the internet, or my phone calls, or my private conversations at home is not a proper use of power.

It's understandable if the government can convince a judge to get a warrant to tap my phone, bug my house, or persuade my ISP to divulge my internet activities. I don't think, though, it's proper to spy on ones citizens without just cause.

I do agree, it would be more.. pleasant.. to have the government out there removing access to all folks who disagree with me (or the government line) on a variety of topics... to require the WIKI pages out there to portray me in a better light.. to jail those who expose their stupidity (young earth, homophobes, racists).
J-n
5 / 5 (1) Mar 24, 2011
I think, though, that calling the current state of internet access here in the USA a Wild West is disingenuous. There are VERY few parts of the 'net that aren't closely monitored.

You think you're downloading those Torrents by yourself? You think the MPAA or RIAA is unaware of Torrent sites and aren't members themselves to those "Exclusive" Groups???

MAYBE we could call the Newsgroups or some parts of the IRC still wild.. but these are places that folks won't stumble across.

These days.. really.. if you get a virus.. it's your fault.

So.. china wants to attack American infrastructure. If none of our important infrastructure is accessible from the 'net then what can they attack? Bestbuy.com?! Who cares if a few websites are down for a few hours/days. If none of our important infrastructure is available for attack then none of it will be attacked.

This is just another scare tatic to convince Americans to Give up their Freedom for "Security".
TabulaMentis
not rated yet Mar 25, 2011
Today is the good old days. In the future people will not enjoy the freedoms and privacy they have today.

If you cannot connect to the computer you cannot access a computer. No network access plus a locked door equals no access.

Computers, like our brains, produce frequencies that can be hacked, eavesdropped and manipulated. Some computers have spyware built directly into the hardware from the factory or can be intercepted, and modified in route to the customer.

We could go on and on about the ways people and computers can be spied upon.
J-n
not rated yet Mar 25, 2011
Computers, like our brains, produce frequencies that can be hacked, eavesdropped and manipulated.


I've not heard of internal computer frequencies being able to be manipulated at all. I'd love to see some research/study on this.
Some computers have spyware built directly into the hardware from the factory or can be intercepted, and modified in route to the customer.


This is true, but.. that spyware can't report to ANYONE if it's not able to communicate outside of it's self. I could install a million viruses and trojans and other spyware/malware of all sorts and NONE of them would be able to give any stolen information to anyone if my computer was disconnected from the internet.

TabulaMentis
not rated yet Mar 25, 2011
I've not heard of internal computer frequencies being able to be manipulated at all. I'd love to see some research/study on this.
Governments and private investigators use hidden bugs and wireless devices to pickup frequencies. You may have a difficult time finding research material regarding this subject. It is high-tech very expensive stuff. If you use CRT televison/computer monitors, it is very easy. Spyware can create frequencies that detectors can read created by the electronics within devices. Check the Internet under the keyword "eavesdropping devices" and that will get you started.

P.S.: Those cheap $200.00 detectors will not even get close to finding hidden bugs!

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